WRITER | SARAH SPOHN
Did you know that Michigan is one of the most bike-friendly states in the country? With over 1,300 miles of biking trails across the Great Lakes state, there are plenty of opportunities for cyclists of any skill level to grab two wheels and create one unforgettable Michigan memory.
The Upper Peninsula is packed with picturesque forests, hills, lakes, rivers, and year-round trails, but the colorful foliage takes center stage in the fall. The cooler weather also makes a great time for biking trails and scenic adventures in the Northern Michigan region. Whether you’re an avid mountain biker or more of a leisurely cruiser, there are plenty of paths to travel for every skill level. Here are some of the top-rated biking trails in the UP, starting with the northernmost, at Copper Harbor. Note: Many of these biking trails also double as walking/hiking trails.
Copper Harbor Bike Trail System: This is one of just ten trails in the entire world to earn the coveted Silver-Level Ride Center ranking by the International Mountain Biking Association. Copper Harbor is known for its mountain bike-friendly attitude, and there are campgrounds, motels, restaurants, bike shops, and pubs all accessible from the trails. This Midwest mountain bike destination showcases rocks, ridges, valleys, forests, preserves, lakes, streams, and a rugged shoreline, but don’t let the uneven terrain intimidate you! There are also easily traversable trails for the entire family, including several at Fort Wilkins State Park. If you want to stick with gravel bike options, check out the old logging roads east of Copper Harbor.
Munising Mountain Bike Park: This intermediate/difficult route features a nonmotorized trail for hiking and biking as well as the Gateway Loop, a 1.4-mile trail compatible with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines. There’s also a bike park with a 1,500-foot level jump trail, wooden deck bridges, and a variety of rock/wood obstacles that is perfect for the daring rider. The singletrack Munising Bay Loop trail provides stunning views of the bay.
Grand Island National Recreation Area: Grand Island offers breathtaking views of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore just a half mile from the mainland community of Munising. The trail network includes over 40 miles of both rugged and gravel trails that are used by both hikers and bikers. This is a great option if you don’t own a bike and want to rent one for the day. Ferry service to the island is available from Memorial Day until October 10.
Noquemanon Trail Network: Located in Marquette, this network of trails, often referred to as North & South Trails, received national acclaim as a premier mountain bike destination. There are three separate trailheads with both uphill and downhill options ranging from easy to difficult. Tourist Park is an easy level for the first 3.1 miles, and County Road 510 provides more difficult terrain. Designed for all styles and skill levels, this system features scenic views, rustic campgrounds, and even waterfalls. There’s also a mountain bike race each October: the Marquette Fall Enduro at the Noquemanon Trail Network South Trails.
Michigan Tech/ Nara Nature Park: This 100-acre nature park with over 50 miles of trails for hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing is located in Houghton, just two miles east of Michigan Tech University at the Houghton Waterfront Trail. Houghton was awarded a silver-level designation as a Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The nonmotorized paved waterfront trail runs right through the city, and there are many wide sidewalks and shoulders throughout the area that provide safe connections and routes to shops, restaurants, and schools.
Be aware that, in some of these rural locations, you may not have smartphone access to Google Maps at every turn. Whether you’re a first-time mountain bike enthusiast or an avid biker, it’s best to do your research before embarking so you know which paths are paved and unpaved or open to motorized traffic and to locate stops for food or snacks, campgrounds/motels, and restrooms or washrooms for cleaning up. And, of course, using proper gear like a helmet is always recommended to stay safe while riding!
For more information on bike trails throughout the Upper Peninsula, visit uptravel.com